Further education and apprenticeship pathways into engineering

This briefing, published in August 2022, is part of our educational pathways series and is accompanied by a suite of data tables looking at the qualifications available in further education (FE), with 2 main categories: technical/vocational qualifications and apprenticeships, with more emphasis on apprenticeships (due to the data available).

The focus is on ‘engineering-related qualifications’, which – in line with previous EngineeringUK research – covers the ‘construction, planning and the built environment’, ‘engineering and manufacturing technologies’, and ‘information and communication technology’ sector subject areas.

We look at the recently introduced T levels, their aim being to create clearer vocational pathways into engineering, while also allowing the flexibility to move across different educational routes. Construction was one of the first T levels to be introduced in 2020/21, with engineering and manufacturing to follow from 2022/23.

We then look at apprenticeships, which are an important route into engineering careers though numbers entering onto them have been impacted by reforms in recent years. Furthermore, when we look at the characteristics of apprentices, in terms of gender, ethnicity and socioeconomic background, there is less diversity among engineering than other subjects. This mirrors what we see in the engineering workforce and suggests that more work needs to be done to create more diversity amongst engineers for the future.

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Key findings:

  • In England, there has been a decline in uptake for all apprenticeship subjects of 35% from 2016/17 to 2020/21, with engineering-related apprenticeships declining by 30%
  • The numbers starting degree or higher level engineering-related apprenticeships have been increasing, whilst the intermediate and advanced level apprenticeships have decreased 
  • In England in 2020/21, women made up 14.5% of engineering-related apprenticeship starts in 2020/21
  • The share of engineering-related apprenticeship starts in the South East has increased since 2016/17, from 13.3% to 15.7%, whereas the share in the North East has declined from 7.8% to 6.0% 
  • There is a promising upward trend in T level enrolments, with the construction T level more than quadrupling its intake from 250 in 2020/21 to 1,150 in 2021/22
  • Engineering-related vocational qualifications made up 31% of all entries for 16 to 18 year olds in 2020/21 
  • We see higher attainment rates in women, with 87% achieving their engineering-related vocational qualification in 2020/21, compared to 84% of men 

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